We don’t always pay too much attention to what our Sun is up to. I mean, it’s there, does its job, and sleeps at night. Good enough for most of us. But the Sun, like all dwarf yellow stars, is still a star and is still capable of sending out powerful solar flares to reach the Earth and cause some damage.
Scientists believe that the giant sunspot AR3089 is about to erupt on the surface of the Sun and is facing toward the Earth. The sunspot has developed a delta-class magnetic field, which has built up enough energy to release X-class solar flares. What are x-class solar flares, you ask? X-class solar flares are the most significant solar flares emitted from the Sun. If these flares are directed at Earth, such flares and associated Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) can create long-lasting storms of radiation, potentially harming satellites, communications systems, and even ground-based technologies and power grids. For example, x-class flares on December 5 and December 6, 2006, triggered a CME that interfered with GPS signals sent to ground-based receivers.
Giant sunspot spewing X class solar flares… 🤔https://t.co/0jK29aTXeP
— Mikel🧡 (@mikelking) September 2, 2022
According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), there is approximately a five percent chance that sunspot AR3089 will unleash an X-class flare on us. If it should happen, the burst can trigger a very powerful geomagnetic storm within the Earth’s atmosphere, damaging infrastructure and electromagnetic communication systems.
Sunspots are darker areas on the surface of the Sun where coronal magnetic fields are the strongest. When these powerful magnetic fields realign themselves, it can result in CMEs, Coronal Mass Ejections, which are bursts of solar plasma, or solar flares, which are spurts of electromagnetic radiation.
Solar flares ejected from sunspots are classified based on the intensity of the X-rays. C-class flares are the most common and have the least noticeable effects on our planet. M-class flares are medium strength in intensity and are capable of causing minor geomagnetic solar storms. And then there is the X-class. They are ten times more powerful than M-class flares, and an X10 flare is ten more powerful than an x1 flare.
Lucky for us, the chance of this sunspot emitting X-class flares at us is relatively low. Still, if one were to occur, the resulting geomagnetic storms on our planet could be devastating, causing widespread damage. According to NASA, if X-class flares were to hit the Earth, the results could range from damaged satellites, global transmission problems, and worldwide broadband blackouts and potentially cause airline passengers near the North and South poles to be exposed to small doses of radiation.
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The largest and most powerful X-class flare to ever hit the Earth is believed to have caused the 1859 Carrington Event, which resulted in bright aurorae being seen worldwide, and caused fires in some telegraph stations. If a storm of this magnitude were to happen today, the result would devastate the entire power grid.
The activity of our Sun follows 11-year cycles. The last solar minimum was in December 2019, and the next solar maximum is forecasted for 2025, but the Sun’s activity is higher than predicted for its cycle stage.
The Sun is currently in Solar Cycle 25, meaning it is the 25th cycle that has occurred since we began recording sunspot activity in 1755. According to spaceweather.com, it is forecasted to outperform the previous Solar Cycle 24. What does this mean? Solar 24 was predictable regarding the activity of sunspots, but more frequent and more intense solar flares and CMEs are expected than there were in the last cycle of the Sun. Let’s hope it doesn’t go to eleven.